Time to talk about technology

By Andrew Whiley
A voice from the south


I was fortunate to be the caddymaster for the Asia-Pacific Amateur at Royal Wellington Golf Club at the end of October; it was an amazing event.
The talent on display was incredible and the distance that some of these players fly the ball is freakish. I was also impressed with the talent of the New Zealand players and I know you will see some great results from these players in the coming years.
In particular, I enjoyed catching up with some of the coaches and one chat that stood out for me was with David Milne from Western Australia, who coaches the Indonesian team.
We got to talking about player development and today’s technology. We had a couple of mutual friends that he played with on the tour in the late 1970s and early 1980s and he felt the change in the golf ball had negatively affected their playing careers.
This wasn’t the first time I had heard such comments but who would have thought that moving from the English 1.62 inch diameter ball to the American size 1.68 inch diameter ball would have made such a difference? Many players at the time felt they couldn’t move the ball as much and it was quite different to play with around the green.
I saw the difference through the late 80s. Golfers that drove the ball brilliantly with persimmon wood drivers were soon out-played off the tee with the emergence of the metal driver. Golfers who were talented but erratic off the tee, were soon driving long and straight and shooting low scores. Then the drivers got even better, moving from metal to titanium and sizes went from 230 cubic centimetres to 460cc, which allowed golfers to hit the ball much further and straighter. This made many golf courses non-competitive as greens once designed to accept five or six irons were now being attacked with nine irons and pitching wedges.
It was interesting to hear Gary Player, on the television commentary from Sun City, South Africa, talk about “winding back the golf ball”. This has been talked about for more than 10 years now, with Jack Nicklaus being a major promoter of this happening.
The change from the rubber-wound balata golf ball to the solid-core balls has dramatically improved the performance of today’s modern golf professional. Imagine if the performance of the competition golf ball was able to be wound back 10 percent, this would bring the 300-metre drive back to 270m; then a lot of those fairway bunkers would be back in play. We could have a golf ball for club and social golfers using the latest technology and a different competitive ball for the professional tours and top amateur events.
When the winner, Lin Yuxin, played the last two holes of the Asia-Pacific Amateur, he played the last two holes three under, finishing birdie and eagle.  Lin hit his driver onto the green at the 330m, 17th hole setting up a tap-in birdie. On the 500m par five, 18th hole, he then smashed a five iron into the wind from 195m to about 1.5 metres, to close with an eagle and a three-shot victory on the Sunday. Now would that have been possible 20 years ago?
It is true that the golfers are stronger, more competitive and have great technique from all the work using digital aids that measure spin rates and launch angles to get the optimum set-up for them to maximise their driving ability.
However, when we also give them laser range finders and green reading books, then a lot of the challenges and subtleties of the game are lost. But enough about technology, now if we could only find a way to speed up play, then we might see some big advantage to the game.